AUSTIN (KXAN) — Austin City Council will hear from the community on Thursday before deciding whether to move forward with buying a building to convert into a homeless shelter.
A lot of people who live nearby in south Austin have made it clear they don’t support the plan. But City Council members said they’re trying to remove misconceptions about it.
“Until I’m able to make an informed decision, I feel like I have to oppose this until I am certain that there are going to be security measures in place that are going to protect the safety of our campus and our children,” said Lisl Friday, the founder and owner of Athena Montessori Academy.
With 176 children in her care, Friday is worried. It was only Tuesday when she found out the proposed shelter is right down the road.
“Our phones have been ringing off the hook with parents and prospective parents,” Friday said.
So just how far is the Athena Montessori School from the proposed homeless shelter?
If you take a drive down West Ben White Boulevard, it will take you somewhere between one and three minutes. An odometer reading showed it was less than a quarter mile West.
“A housing-focused shelter must be a good neighbor. And that includes restrictions on the property,” said Council Member Ann Kitchen of District 5.
Kitchen reassured me there will be clear security measures at this shelter to keep the community safe. There will be no drop-ins, meaning there shouldn’t be any homeless people hanging around the area.
“People are concerned. And they are afraid, and that’s understandable! They don’t want to see things get worse. We don’t either. As a City Council, we have to start addressing this, and people need a place to live,” Kitchen said.
City Council will start taking public comment Thursday afternoon.
Kitchen said that while it may seem like it’s moving fast, there are still several things that need to happen before the city could buy the building.
“Nothing is going to happen until all of those pieces come together. And there is still quite a number of months before that can happen,” Kitchen said.
Friday just hopes the process will slow down enough until everyone is ready to take a step forward.
“We don’t want to be the community that says ‘Not In Our Backyard,’ and yet, three doors down feels very unsettling and unsafe,” Friday said.
Here’s a look at the number of homeless people recorded last year across several cities in Texas:
The Houston metro, and the Dallas-Irving metro area were roughly the same. More than 4,000 people suffering homelessness on any given night.
San Antonio had about a thousand fewer.
Austin, saw 2,100 homeless people on any given night. El Paso saw just under 900.
In addition to a vote on the proposed homeless shelter, Austin City Council will also vote on an item tomorrow that would limit how officers can respond to a homeless person.
If it passes, it would change both Austin’s so-called sit-and-lie ordinance and its panhandling ordinance. APD would only be allowed to arrest or ticket someone who is in a public area if they present a public health or safety hazard.